Spring cleaning is finally behind us, and I’m taking stock of what I learned. Each year I start the process by reassessing my closet of cleaning supplies. Is there anything in there I could do without? Any materials or ingredients I’ve recently learned more about and should exchange for something “cleaner”? Can I start going paperless in my cleaning? Every year the answer is an enthusiastic yes.
The Organic Consumers Association puts ammonia up there with bleach when ranking items for “high acute toxicity,” and according to researchers at the University of Notre Dame Office of Sustainability the production of paper products is culpable for a third of industrial air, water, and land pollution in both the US and Canada. The good news is you can do your part right at home; as you take steps to make your routine greener, consider these super-easy swaps this season:
Swap Paper Towels for Cloth
My family has been going paperless in our home office by digitizing receipts, bills, and sticky notes. A few years ago, we added the kitchen. We started by swapping paper towels for repurposed T-shirts that were too far gone to donate. At first I thought I’d still be addicted to the convenience of paper towels. When putting a stack of old shirts where my paper towels once were, however, I was pleased to see this is one swap I didn’t even have to get used to.
Use Salt Instead of Industrial Scrubbers
Popular abrasive cleansers—the kind that really “get the job done”—have ingredients you likely never knew about. So the more I look into what makes them so effective, the less exciting they become. Borax, for example, is a pesticide. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s in your household cleansing products, so harness the scratchy power of coarse sea salt instead. Here’s how.
What you need:
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
- 1/4 cup Castile soap
- 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
- 10 drops of your favorite essential oil blend
To make, simply add all ingredients to a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake. When it’s time to clean your countertops, sinks, tubs, linoleum floors, and even stove tops, uncork your DIY all-purpose cleaner, pour a small amount onto a soft rag, and apply it to the mess. Remove with another dry, soft wipe.
Replace Window Cleaner with Lemon Juice
To get rid of the spots on your windows, shower door, mirrors, and faucet knobs, don’t reach for the blue stuff; grab a lemon instead! Slice it in half and squeeze the juice into a glass spray bottle. Spray the sweet-smelling solution to any mirror or window with circular motions, and use a dry cloth to wipe it clean. This swap couldn’t be easier, and you’ll feel like a champion of domesticity with this new trick.
Exchange Furniture Polish for Coconut Oil
Use your own body’s heat to warm unrefined organic coconut oil in your hand (it should only take a few seconds), and let the oil drip into a small bowl. Add five drops of undiluted sweet marjoram or German chamomile essential oil. Then use a cloth diaper (or another recycled-cotton cloth) to gently apply your oil to a small, inconspicuous corner of your favorite wood furniture piece. After an hour, wipe it clean.
If you like what you see, apply the oil to the rest of your wood furniture and floors, and wait the same length of time before wiping it clean. The oil acts as a soap, polish, and wax all at once, eliminating the need for multiple expensive products that have questionable ingredients.
Opt for Recycled Material
Recycling wouldn’t exist if people didn’t buy post-consumer recycled products. Like most industries, if there’s no demand, the service will disappear. So it’s important to buy products with packaging made from recycled materials. When it comes to cleaning products, take just a minute to verify the company’s stance on using and reusing eco-friendly packaging supplies, and not just for the customer’s sake. Does the company say anything about recycling elsewhere in their supply chain? You might not know how (or even whether) to stop using plastic completely, but this one small step is a great way to reduce waste and your family’s environmental impact.
Going paperless, harnessing less plastic, and using sea salt and essential oils are all great swaps to make a positive difference in your home without getting overwhelmed. As you consider these steps, your family should make switches that are right for you, based on the tasks you face most often. Once you do, tweet your swaps to @TomsofMaine.
Image source: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.